Archive for May, 2008
You can learn a lot about the world by looking at the junk mail folder on your computer. You’ll find offers of wealth, offers of health, offers of forbidden pleasures. It’s a world of illusion, spinning fantasies before your eyes of increased wealth, of increased sexual prowess, of unheard-of bargains and opportunities. Spam almost seems too nice of a term for it; it’s evil come calling, sin just a mouse click away. At best, it’s an annoyance. At worst, it’s an open door to a world of problems.
Some experts say that these unwanted messages may someday choke the Internet to death, making it virtually unusable. Those of us who use e-mail a lot must work with spam blockers and spam filters, running the risk of missing valid messages as we wade through a swamp of junk. I don’t know anyone who likes getting junk messages. So why do they keep coming?
Because somebody out there gets taken in. Someone lets greed overpower them, buying that illegal software or falling for that scam message that offers them millions of dollars for no work at all. Someone else gets deceived by the message that love can be found through physical enhancements and that the necessary enhancements are available in that pill, that cream or that herbal supplement. Others are fooled by voyeuristic desires, tempted by offers of pornographic material.
The sad thing is that these people don’t realize that they’re going about it all wrong. They are trying to fill a spiritual void with physical things. They need things like love, companionship, and meaning in their lives, none of which can be found in junk messages. Even though they don’t realize it and would probably deny it, what they crave above all is God.
In the book of Psalms, the Bible says: “[i]Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart[/i]” (Psalms 37:4). It’s easy to focus on the second part of that verse and miss the whole message. It’s saying that when we realize that our greatest desire should be God, when we make Him our greatest delight, then all of the other things that we’ve been longing for will be taken care of. Some will be granted to us, others will no longer seem desirable. But only if we take care of that one need that every man has — the need for a relationship with God.
Happiness isn’t found in your e-mail. Lasting happiness, the kind that reaches to the very core of our being, is found only in God.
It was a haunting sound, carried by the wind and seemed to float around those of us gathered there. The lone bugler sounding Taps has been the aural recognition for a person’s military service from a grateful nation.
At age 88, he had led a good life by earthly standards. His three year, all expenses paid excursion to Europe, as a Captain in the United States army earned him the right of this honor.
I have heard the mournful melody many times, including at the burial of my own parents, both of whom were veterans. Since the Civil War, that sound has marked the end of person’s physical existence. And every time I hear it, I cry. I cannot explain it, other than to say it stirs my heart, and I acknowledge that one who served to protect me has died.
Today men and women still choose to safeguard this country, fight its wars, and die in its service. And Taps will mark the occasion of their burial and the final honor from a grateful country.
I am also reminded that there is one who chose to come to an earthly world, fight the ultimate enemy and die for me. And now He sits at God’s right hand claiming me as His! Protecting me from the evil one.
This Memorial Day, we acknowledge those who served to our country and over whom Taps has been played. So also should we honor the One whose death allows us to claim victory over our enemy.
The place to start our recognition is knowing who that ultimate enemy is. It’s Satan. Isn’t it time we fight the enemy and stop sniping at our brothers? Isn’t it time to aim at the one whose intentions are to kill us. Instead of being consumed about those who may disagree with us?
What do you think?
Someone asked me the other day if I could remember my first sermon. I can. I was fourteen years old and at the Hickory Grove church of Christ in Arkansas, I preached on The Parable of the Pencil. I can even remember most of the points I made.
Pencils come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Just like people. No matter what they look like on the outside, they all have one thing inside them that is the same: the lead core. Just like we all have a soul.
Pencils are made to write. That is their purpose. That purpose is only accomplished when there is a guiding hand around the pencil. We also were made for a purpose that is accomplished with the help of a guiding hand.
Pencils have erasers in case of mistakes. As Christians, God allows us to “erase” our mistakes. Pencils need a sharp point and we need to remain sharp in our spiritual lives.
You may be wondering by now what is the point of this article. Is it about starting to preach when young? Is it to show how we grow up as Christians so that my sermons have more depth now? Is it to make a point about pencils and Jesus?
Actually, it is to help me remember how to view the world. I still see parables and applications about Christian living. I see them in pencils, cars, televisions, pets, and sports. It is a natural process. Try it. Think about what you learn about God from everyday things. I enjoyed remembering that first sermon, and I want to keep that same perspective.
I want to see lessons about God in everything I do in this life. It’s what Jesus did. He saw spiritual application in birds, farming, fishing, and family life. I love being in a relationship with God that is so intense I see him everywhere and in everything. It is a great life.
So what do learn about God from the things you see around you? What do wish you could learn?
My wife just traveled to Argentina and back. That trip would normally have cost more than we could pay, but it turned out to be quite affordable. We were able to pay for that trip with miles we had accrued by taking other trips. In the language of the airline industry, we had earned a reward.
That’s a popular concept these days. Many companies offer incentives based on your purchases with them. Take enough trips and you earn another one. Stay in a hotel and earn another stay. Use your credit card and earn rewards. Buy flowers, shop at the hardware store, rent movies, eat pizza … there are lots of ways you can get free things by earning bonuses.
I have no problem with that system. I like being rewarded. One problem I see, though, is that we often want to look at God as operating in the same way. If we do enough of the right things, we reason, God will be obligated to give us our reward. That’s how many people in the world see it. Just make sure that you have done enough right things, and your future is secured.
But that’s not how God works. He doesn’t expect us to earn the reward that He has to give. And there is nothing that we can do to obligate God to do anything. What He gives, He gives because of His grace, not because we have been able to force Him to do something. What He offers, He offers freely, not with a price that we have to pay. There’s not even a rewards plan where we can accrue enough points to go to heaven. It all depends on God. The apostle Paul wrote: [i]“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast”[/i] (Ephesians 2:8-9).
There’s no Frequent Prayers Plan, no Platinum Church Members Plan. There’s just Jesus and His sacrifice. By accepting what He did for us with a loving, obedient faith, we get the reward that He earned for us. Now that’s a great plan!
I’d love to hear any thoughts or questions about this.
Grace and peace,